The Landsdowne portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart (National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution).
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The Homemade Eggnog Recipe from Mount Vernon (and the Story Behind It)
November 29, 2021
Enjoy this homemade old-school eggnog recipe from Mount Vernon, George Washington’s estate. There’s also an amusing story to tell about this popular recipe, which might offer up a nice little tidbit of cocktail conversation to go with your festive concoction.
Eggnog was certainly popular during colonial times. Brought over from Britain (and going back to medieval times), eggnog was a special-occasion drink due to its ingredients (milk, eggs, alcohol), which were quite expensive at the time. According to kitchen records, George Washington served an eggnog-like drink to visitors at Mount Vernon loaded with alcohol.
“George Washington’s Eggnog Recipe” (below) became widely circulated with the claim that it was penned by the first president in his own hand. Here’s the recipe (with added ingredient amounts, since cooks didn’t tend to specify amounts nor servings back in the day, adjusting to the size of the party):
“One quart cream, one quart milk, one dozen tablespoons sugar, one pint brandy, ½ pint rye whiskey, ½ pint Jamaica rum, ¼ pint sherry – mix liquor first, then separate yolks and whites of 12 eggs, add sugar to beaten yolks, mix well.
Add milk and cream, slowly beating. Beat whites of eggs until stiff and fold slowly into mixture. Let set in cool place for several days. Taste frequently.”
So is this Washington’s recipe in his own hand? Although widely circulated as being true, it’s doubtful. We contacted the librarians at Mount Vernon who said that no eggnog recipe has been definitively linked to Washington. It did not come from George or Martha Washington’s papers, Martha Washington’s cookbook (which she inherited from her first marriage), nor was it provided in her personal copy of the Art of Cookery by Hannah Glasse, which was the most popular English cookbook in America at the time.
However, the eggnog recipe above is a true vintage recipe; it just comes from the 19th century. George Washington (1732–99) lived in the 18th century.
Mount Vernon Eggnog Recipe
We do have another homemade eggnog recipe kindly shared by Mount Vernon, as eggnog was indeed a popular drink in the latter half of the 18th century.
We’ve slightly adapted this recipe to make the ingredient amounts clear. We recommend preparing the mixture a day in advance so it’s well chilled. It’s well worth it! The grocery store stuff isn’t even the same animal.
12 eggs (pasteurized if possible), room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
One-fifth bourbon (750ml bottle)*
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 quart whipping cream
Optional: 1 cup milk
1 to 2 teaspoons nutmeg, freshly grated (not ground)
*Note: You can adjust the amount of alcohol in this recipe or omit it altogether. Or, use a different alchohol on hand; common choices include brandy, rum, bourbon, or whisky. One eggnog recipe we enjoy (from the 1950s) uses “1 cup bourbon and 1 cup Cognac” in place of the one-fifth bourbon.
Separate the egg whites and egg yolks very carefully, making sure there is absolutely no yolk in the whites. Cover the egg whites and store in the refrigerator.
Whisk egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl. (Or, use an electric or stand mixture with a whisk attachment.) Whip until thick and smooth; it should be lemon yellow in color, 5 to 7 minutes.
Slowly add the alcohol desired to large bowl while beating at slow speed. Scrape down side of bowl. Chill mixture for several hours or overnight.
In separate bowl, beat the egg whites and salt until almost stiff.
Whip the cream until stiff.
Fold the whipped cream into the yolk mixture, then fold in the beaten egg whites. Chill 1 hour.
When ready to serve, sprinkle the top with freshly grated nutmeg. Serve in punch cups with a spoon.
If desired, add 1 cup of milk to the yolk mixture for a thinner eggnog.
It turns out George Washington WAS known to make a cherry bounce, a brandy-based drink also popular in the eighteenth century. We can say, in full confidence, that this festive alcoholic drink recipe is straight from the Washingtons; it was a hand-written recipe card in Martha Washington’s notebook. Discover George Washington’s Cherry Bounce.